Coffee has never grown in Armenia. The origins of the drink that is now one of the most valuable traded commodities are lying in a region of Ethiopia called Kaffa. The saying goes that the coffee was discovered by a goatherd who to his surprise noticed the increased energy of his animals coming from the beans of a yet-unknown plant. These beans turned out to affect humans in the same way.
Coffee beans made their way into the trade routes going throughout the Middle East and to Near East and Europe. In fact, Armenians have possibly been the most interested in the trade of coffee beans.
The first coffee houses in Vienna and Paris have been opened by Armenians. In the Hapsburg territories, the first coffee house business was established by Johannes Diodato (born Hovhannes Astvatsatour, the surname being translated as “God-given” – as many would agree, a very suitable name for someone who has been one of the pioneers of coffee shops) in the late 17th century.
One Pascal opened the first Paris coffee house in 1672, which was soon followed by Maliban, another Armenian, during the same ear. The remarkable feature of contemporary coffee houses was the extensive use of Armenian fashions and decorations. According to some accounts, the earliest Prague and London coffee shops have been opened by Armenians as well.
The key role of such coffee houses is now reflected in the café culture of European capitals, which is furthermore emulated all over the world.
Another remarkable thing is the Armenian word for “coffee.” The word “coffee” and its variants like “café”, “kofe”, “qahwa”, and many others are now used in nearly all languages. However, there are two places where this isn’t the case. The first is the original birthplace of the drink, Ethiopia, where coffee is called “buna” in the Amharic language. The other place is obviously Armenia, where coffee is called “soorj” or “soorch” (Western and Eastern Armenian pronunciations respectively). The origins of the word are not clear, though it could have been derived from “sev choor” or “sev joor”, which means “black water” in Armenian.